As you may or may not be aware, I am a huge cycling fanatic. As I steam up our local hills in my stretched lycra pants, I will admit, I am not necessarily holding my breath to be called to ride in a pro-tour. But there are guys who can and did all of that many times over. One of them is Lance Armstrong, who, in my opinion (which remains my democratic right to hold), remains to be an exceptional human being and athlete, and doping aside, remains one of the best cyclists of all time.
It is currently the Tour de France, a race I follow religiously, and during the time of the race I watch a daily podcast called The Move presented by Lance Armstrong, co-hosted by JB Hager and George Hincapie, the latter being on of Lance’s cycling stalwarts and a fellow teammate during Lance’s racing days. It’s a fun show with lots of insider details, tactics and interesting discussions about the race and all things cycling.
After Lance’s live doping confession on the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2013, it unleashed a barrage of backlash and courts cases against the former cyclist and 7 times Tor de France champion, and he was singled out for his transgressions at the time. Interestingly none of the main sponsors and organisations who benefitted from Lance’s success and involvement, ever paid back their profits made from the branding success that was Lance Armstrong. Think about the sales of things like bikes, cycling attire, cycling kit and tools to name just a few, but perhaps this is a conversation for another day.
A few days ago, during the show, Lance was asked by one of his co-presenters if he could remember a specific climb and details around that particular day when they were still racing. To the surprise of his co-hosts Lance could not remember the incident. George Hincapie said he was surprised that Lance could not remember it. Then Lance gave this honest but heart-breaking response, he said “I forgot when the world forgot, and I wiped my memories clean. I recall very few things from my racing days”. Oof. Few things have ever hit me that hard. Imagine, spending more than half of your life working towards a dream and then just having to forget it all. Having people turn on you, leaving you standing alone to take the full brunt. That’s tough and it will break most people.
I know, Lance doped, and many people say they will never forgive him for lying about it, but the sad truth is he also had to work hard for those wins, and arguably, even if he did dope, the advantage he got was marginal. The world of professional cycling experienced a pretty dark era back then but also laid the foundations for the sport to be cleaned up and to face some hard realities. It certainly led to some needed reform in the official structures and rules of the sport. Lance was of course never thanked for that either.
I am not advocating a case for Lance, the history is what it is, but we can all learn from his mistakes. We can work a lifetime to build a reputation and success and lose it all in a single moment of weakness. Most importantly is that we don’t lose sight of own worth even when this happens.
Many times, the world will forget. Our wins and success belong to yesterday. In a world constantly in search of the next best thing or the next record, or the next trophy, it’s easy to lose touch with who you are as a person.
Don’t ever forget yourself, even when the world does.